I am delighted to welcome frequent ESO Network contributor Mary Ogle to the ESMCU family, with her first in a series of reviews of Daredevil. Standard disclaimers apply – SPOILERS for episodes 1 through 3!
DAREDEVIL EPISODES 1-3: LOSING MY RELIGION
By Mary Ogle
“Daredevil” begins as a morality play where the city is an angry god and the titular character its instrument of divine justice. How fitting a story featuring a blind hero should have such a visceral setting. The world Matt Murdock inhabits thrums with a constant ache, ringing with the crack of bones and rife with the stench of blood. The streets of Hell’s Kitchen are like a maze built from scaffolding that implies rebirth but feels more like a prison.
Catholicism is a central component of Murdock’s character and an interesting nuance to bring to a superhero story. Like the recitation and movement that occur within a Mass, Murdock’s words and actions often feel ritualized as he acts within a moral code ingrained in him from childhood. As a defense attorney he is keenly aware that both innocence and guilt are relative terms. Murdock is not blind to the hypocrisy of the system but he finds comfort in his faith.
The show’s willingness to accept the moral ambiguity of any given situation goes a long way in adding depth to a story that might have wallowed in self-righteousness. We seldom see the painful consequences of physical violence on TV but people in “Daredevil” react to every blow and come away bloody and bruised. Murdock’s sharpened senses compensate for his blindness in many ways but do not render him indestructible. He is a flawed human being both physically and morally, resorting more than once to torture to achieve his goals.
Karen Page is the Eve figure who dares to wake up and choose awareness over following blindly. She was disappointing in the first episode coming across as your typical damsel in distress but by the third episode her character is much more intriguing. Karen does not rely on Matt or Foggy to shelter or rescue her but strikes out on her own and makes her own decisions. When Karen confronts her co-worker’s wife it would be easy to dismiss the other woman as a coward. It is a credit to the writers that even this minor character has nuance as she reacts as a mother fiercely protecting her young. There is no blame here only acceptance of the fact moral decisions are rarely black and white.
Fathers and father figures play an important role in “Daredevil”. Murdock’s father is a boxer who takes bribes to lose fights in order to obtain the money he needs to care for his son and pay for his schooling. Does an immoral action taken to save another make someone a bad person? He commits suicide, for make no mistake that is what he is doing, as a way to prove to himself and his child that he is capable of resisting sin even if the consequence is death. He retains his integrity but his son loses his father. This mixed message forms the core of Murdock’s character. He is a conflicted figure. Matt Murdock is an educated man but he never gives up the fighter within, equally adept whether the battle is one with words or fists.
Matt Murdock may have risen to the level of the elite but he remains the defender of the working class. Corporate greed and the arrogance and selfishness of the wealthy and powerful are the main villains here. The monsters in “Daredevil” are devastatingly human. The city is a bleak hell of our own creation and Matt Murdock is not allowed to rise above it. He is just as mired in the complexities of life and dubious questions of morality as the rest of us and that is what makes “Daredevil” a true standout of the superhero story genre.